Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Defining some basic concepts in SharePoint, a cheat sheet for anyone trying to use SharePoint Out of the Box.

SharePoint has some basic concepts that are used over and over again in designing a Information Architecture (IA). This is an intended cheat sheet for anyone trying to come to terms with what is in SharePoint.

Web Site, Site Collection

SharePoint enables you, as the administrator, to create a new web site with its own URL. Let the technical people deal with getting the URL set. You need to know that your site will be hosted on a specific web address. Technical people call this a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN). Something like https://yourcompany.sharePoint/site.

SharePoint allows a lot of different kind of sites, but key features are used again and again.

SharePoint lists

SharePoint provides the ability to define lists of content. These lists can be shared through the entire SharePoint solution. So you can make a list defining departments in a company, then use that list to define properties of documents.

Content Types

A content type is a reusable collection of metadata (columns), workflow, and other settings for a category of items or documents. Content types can manage the settings for a category or object of information in a centralized, reusable way.

Content Types are key to good Information Architecture in SharePoint. You should define the kinds of business documents you are going to manage, like expense reports, design documents, incident reports, what every you business needs. Then define a Content Type in SharePoint for that. As a BA you should be defining the re-used structures of documents. The thing about SharePoint is that you can learn to make Content Types without having to learn how to code.

Document Libraries

Document libraries are collections of files that can be shared with other users. Document Libraries are key to SharePoint Document Management (DM) features. Think of the places you will need to share documents. Maybe HR, or a specific project, or a team. Document Libraries give you a place to share documents in a structured way.

Team Site

Finally the most popular SharePoint feature is the Team Site. A team site is a basic web page which contains lists and document libraries. Generally you create a team site in SharePoint any time you have a requirement to make a "small web page" for a specific purpose. Don't use Team Sites for resent you companies entire strategy. Think of them as small web pages with set purposes.

Once the IT guys have given you a Team Site define the Document Libraries, lists, columns and content types you will need to meet the business objectives. SharePoint builds on simply tools to give you the power to quickly implement the Information Architecture you want, without having to write code or go through long testing processes.